tv The Presidency CSPAN November 24, 2014 12:00am-12:50am EST
we did have a belief system which was about extending -- you talk about a revolution without orders, extending personal freedom, rights, and dignity. it was about not only winning the cold war, but about millions of people. from his readings and understandings and his pronouncements, and everything he learned from soviet dissidents -- one of his favorite philosophers was alexander solzenytzen. a lot of historians say that reagan ended the cold war, which was nonsense. we were losing in 1980. soviets in southeast asia --
italy had come within a hair's breadth of voting in a communist government. troops were in angola. the soviets in every measurable way are winning. nine years later, gorbachev is suing for peace. they have not taken one inch of territory, which from 1970 through 1980, the soviets took eric tori under every president. they stopped dead in their tracks. it was not just military. it was using the bully pulpit to call them the evil empire. it was using radio free europe to boost the signal into the warsaw pact countries and the baltic countries. stopping the subsidy of their economy -- he used every
available method, quite frankly. the soviets never knew what hit them. he hit them at many different levels. he basically brought them to their needs. >> you could sum all of that up in a simple phrase, which he used. that is "peace through strength." he was willing to negotiate with the soviets once we had achieved military superiority, which we did not have when he came into office in 1980. a great way to kick off this conference and commemorate the 50th anniversary of ronald reagan's speech. we have a great grounding in history. are going to take a bit of a break now for a few moments let you stretch her legs. we will be right back here for our next discussion. thank you so much. [applause]
>> you're watching american history tv. 48 hours of programming on american history every weekend on c-span three. follow us on twitter at c-span history for information on our schedule, upcoming programs, and to keep up with the latest history news. coming up next on the presidency. we hear about theodore roosevelt's love of poetry from paul ferlazzo. roosevelt's interest in poetry developed during his time as a hunter and broadened his interest in nature. paul ferlazzo is the author of poetry and the american presidency. this is about 50 minutes. you,t me introduce to professor emeritus at the
department of english in northern arizona. he received his bachelor's degree from st. francis college and a master of arts from the university of oklahoma. following this, he earned his doctor of philosophy degree at the university of oklahoma. for 40 years he taught poetry in the context of culture at universities in the united states and abroad, including italy. he has served as a lecturer. in both germany and china. he has received service awards. fordld a three year foundation grant. he has served on the boards of several academic organizations. in 1975, he was elected to fight phi.i kappa
that recognizes excellence in all academic disciplines. he served as western regional vice president for six years and as the 26th president from 2004 two 2007. he is described by his students as, and i quote, "a wise, wonderful and passionate professor". he has published many articles on poets. his recent book is entitled "poetry and the american presidency". it talks about from george washington to barack obama who red and wrote poetry. the book offers a unique look into men who occupied the white house. tonight's presentation is
titled, "reading poetry in the white house, the surprising story of theater roosevelt -- theodore roosevelt." please extend a warm welcome to dr. paul for lazo. [applause] >> good evening. welcome. i want to begin by thanking those were arranged this evening. and also thinking the administration at fairhaven for their hospitality. so my talk tonight is called reading poetry in the white house: the surprising story of theodore roosevelt. the reason i say surprising is i do not think most people do not think of theater roosevelt as a lover of poetry. we have had many images of him in our minds, i am sure.
and none of them would have you picturing him reading a book of poetry. he was very interested in poetry. red poetry and supported poets. that is the story we are going to talk about tonight. what's. he was our 26th president. his professional life as a politician, of course, was pretty well-known. just briefly i will go over it a little bit with you. elected in 1881 as a new york assemblyman. then to the u.s. civil service commission, new york police commissioner, assistant secretary of the navy in 1897. he organized the rough riders in
1898. he was governor of new york in 1898. coming back from the spanish-american war as a hero. then a elected vice president in 1900. at the death of president half, he assumed the presidency. -- president taft, he assumed the presidency. he was the youngest man to occupy the white house at the age of 42. he was rather rapid only 20 years from new york assemblyman to president. we have this image of him as a rough writer in the spanish-american war. we know him as a great white hunter of wild animals all over the world.
we also know him for the teddy bear. there are a couple of stories about this. he was hunting bear in mississippi. the story goes in two directions. he either came upon a very old bear that he felt would be dis-honor to kill that old bear who had lived successfully for so long, and so he did not kill that there. -- did not kill that there. or it was a young bear that he came upon and decided not to kill it because it was too young. i think the older bear was the true story. the result of not killing that bear, the newspapers picked it up, and it became a story in popular press. some toys manufacturer then created the "teddy" there. --bear. when arizona are very sensitive especially of theater roosevelt's work as an
environmentalist. he is pictured here with a great american environmentalist. we over great deal to theodore roosevelt as an environmentalist. he established five national parks, 18 national monuments, including the grand canyon. 50 plus game and bird preserves around the country. totaling 150 million acres of forest reserve. he established the u.s. forest service. 21 reclamation projects, including the teddy roosevelt dam. wheeler great deal of our environmental -- we go a great deal of our environmental
consciousness to the work of theodore roosevelt. that is a story for another evening, i think. it is something we like to think about, especially those of us who live in arizona. this is his statement about the grand canyon. in the grand canyon arizona has a natural wonder, rich so far as i know, absolutely unparalleled throughout the rest of the world. i want to ask you to do one thing in connection with it in your own interests and in the interests of the country, to keep this great wonder of nature as it is now. of course, it is still very much in its natural state. we who live in arizona love it a great deal, and i hope all of you will have an opportunity at some point to visit the grand canyon. when you do, you will recognize the importance of theodore roosevelt, not only as a president but for his
environmental activity. our subject tonight, aside from the political life and history of theater roosevelt as an activist is his habit of reading poetry. here we see him pictured in a tent with a big hat on and boots and so on. he is reading. this is one of the things that he always did. he said that with him he said reading with me is a disease he actually said that. he liked to reed so much. he also red a great deal of poetry. -- he also read a great deal of poetry. some people, of whom i am one,
also passed through periods, through which they would devour poets of widely different kinds. schiller, scott, longfellow, kipling, shelley, or tennyson. and again, emerson or browning or whitman. sometimes our wishes are to reed for the sake of contrast. when i live in -- i often carried the volumes of swinburne, frying pan bread, and the infrequent washing of sweat drenched clothing. on top of everything else, teddy roosevelt was an excellent writer as a.
i think you will notice the vividness of his writing. the main thing about his statement is that the variety of poets that he mentions he lists 16 poets from the ancient world throughout history up to his age that he likes to reed. they come from the classical world of england america germany. together they represent a vast cross-section of the literature of poetry. they represent historical periods. every style of poetry to rhyming couplets to free verse, and every type of home from narrative to lyric. roosevelt was an intelligent -- intelligent reader of poetry. if we went around the room now
and i asked you to name your 16 favorite poets that you refer to from time to time, i would probably not find 16. maybe a few we would find. but 16 poets come to his mind as he is thinking about poetry. he mentions the poet swinburne as an antiseptic he says to the life who was this person? they say a person -- a picture is worth a thousand words you could not imagine two people more different from one another. roosevelt on one hand, swinburne on the other. roosevelt was a dedicated family man. with serious commitments to
traditional morality, public service, helpful living, and the adventures of the great outdoors. as a thinker and writer, roosevelt was scarily, andcholarly, forthright, eager for progress. swinburne, on the other hand, living a rebellious lifestyle. he had a habit of excessive drink which nearly killed him as a young man. he found pleasure in legislation, and held a vision of masochism in his poetry. he reveled in the fantasies of medieval. his writing style has been
called impressionistic, sometimes pornographic, and occasionally vague and unintelligible. what could these two men have in common? this is the amazing thing about roosevelt. he liked to reed and reed a lot of different things. he enjoyed escapist literature as much as anything else that he red. swinburne's poems were musical and sensual with scenes that were exotic or shocking. this reading of swinburne would transport roosevelt in his imagination to a different world far from the ruggedness. he always combined the rigors of outdoor living with the pleasures of reading.
on his african hunting expeditions, he took with him on his hunting expeditions a pigskin library this is a picture of his pig skin library trimmed it down to pocket-size. the covers were taken off. the book was rebound with pagan skin leather as defense against abuse they would experience in the jungle. he described his need for the peak skin binding this way. >> off in my reading would be done by resting under a tree at noon, cap speak -- perhaps by the caucus of a beast i had killed. it might be impossible to get water for washing. in consequence the books were
stained with blood, sweat, gun oil, dosh dass -- dust. pig skin merely grew to look as a well used saddle looks. " this pic skin lot -- this pagan skin library. one third of these books, some 20 pounds of books or books of poetry. these poets ranged over the history of literature from homer to dante, shakespeare, keats, longfellow, poe, emerson. when asked about the reason for his selection of certain book
and the omission of others he described his reading philosophy this way. "this means that i take with me on any trip a very small proportion of the books that i like. i don't like very many or different kinds of books. i don't attempt anything so preposterous as a continuing comparison between books that may appeal to a totally different set of emotions. one correspondent pointed out to me that tennyson was trivial compared to browning. another complaint that i had omitted walt whitman. another asked why i had put longfellow on a level with tennyson. i believe i did take walt whitman on one hunt. i did take others.
i did not pick it was necessary to compare them. different sets of experiences that he would have at any given time, and he liked to have these books readily handy. so that what was ever going on in his life even in the jungle or on some south american trip he could pull out the book and read to his heart's content. that is the variety. i think i skipped ahead that is the variety of his reading pleasures. notice my liking to tennyson and my inability to care greatly for browning.
i do not put measuring rooms to these poets. i don't see to compare keats with shelley or shelley with poe. i enjoy them all. probably one category of poetry that he liked more than any other was more poetry. -- war poetry. this is what he said about the war said he knew about. every man who has in him any real power knows he feels it when the wolf begins to rise in his heart. he does not shrink from blood and sweat. he revels in them, in the toil and pain and danger as but setting off the triumph. he admired in particular one of
the great european ethics of war. he also praises accounts of fighting in chaucer's "the knight's tale". in particular, he liked civil war poetry. he praises the poems written by walt whitman, james russell lowell, longfellow, among several others for the writing about the civil war. he was able to memorize and recite poetry from the civil war. this is an example of two stanzas that he memorized about the civil war which gives you an idea of his feelings about war. "where are ye marching soldiers
with anna, gun, and sword? we are marching south to battle for the lord. the mighty run of israel, his name is lord of hosts. to canaan, to canaan, the lord has led us forth. to go before the rebel walls, the compass of the north. when all her walls lie flat, what follows next in order? the lord will see to that. will break the tyrant scepter. we'll build the people's throne. when all the world is freedom, then have to world our own. to canaan, to canaan, the lord has led us forth. to sweep the rebels floors, a world wind from the north. " this was written from the
point of view of the north of the victors. they are going to go down south and conquer and set those people free. the poem is full of what we would call triumph holism -- triumph. it does not leave much room for thought or analysis or concern for those who suffer or even the requirement of truth. buried under old testament righteousness. the simple rhyme scheme make memorization easy. it is meant to be carried in the minds as you go off into battle anticipating more and hoping for victory.
he struggled hard for what he believed was right. his intense commitment. captioning all bravado he felt as a commander-in-chief. in 1903, his son was attending a college preparatory school called the groton school in massachusetts. he happened to reading book of poetry called children of the night. it was written by admin arlington robinson. his son liked the book so much that he sent a copy to his
father in the white house. of course, roosevelt himself liked the book a great deal. who was robinson? edwin arlington robinson? an american poet and of the 19th century who lived through the early 20th century hero 28 books of poetry and 13 pulitzer prizes. prizes.n 3 pulitzer he was not a very successful person in many ways. he came from a family that was quite dysfunctional. in fact, when he was born, his mother was disappointed. she wanted a daughter. instead she was given a son. in fact the first six months of his life, she did not even give him a name. the family was away on vacation
and the people who were there said the baby needs a name. they put names and a hat. a woman pulled out the word edmon. that became the first name. she was from arlington massachusetts. that is how he got his middle name. so you have a feeling that he comes from a family that is not very loving towards him. he suffered a good deal as a result of it. there was a great deal of catastrophe in the family, too. his father failed in businesses and became alcoholic and died prematurely. his mother almost i prematurely from diphtheria. he had a brother who died from a drug overdose. another brother who fails at business and became an alcoholic
and ended up at a ward for homeless people. robinson was the only one as it turned out that let a full life and a rather successful life, at least as a poet. he also struggled with alcohol and depression. it is easy to understand when you think about his upbringing. the kind of dysfunctional who never married. he depended on friends and companions. he never had a great deal of money he lived kind of hand to mouth. theodore roosevelt red-p a book of this man's poetry. he liked it a great deal he wrote to robinson and said i am
enjoying your poetry so much that i must write to tell you so. how are you getting along. i wish i could see you they began a correspondence. in time roosevelt of course came to know that robinson was living in this hand to mouth existence with some personal problems. he wanted to do something for this poet. he found a job in the new york customs house on wall street. this was a job that did not require a nine -- 9-5. he continued to write his poetry, and yet he would have a steady income. roosevelt did this and it made a
vast difference in his life, as you can imagine. roosevelt went further by contacting the publisher. he convinced them to publish a second edition of poetry to make sure the people would buy the book. a little extra push, he went ahead and wrote a book review of this book of poems and published it so that he would be as president endorsing the poetry it was hard to picture many presidents doing that going the extra mile he was rich richer
isis a shocking point and actually the first american hole poem where a self-inflicted gunshot wound is the centerpiece of the poem. it is disturbing. robinson is per train the modern condition. the trouble that people have which they hide -- train the modern condition. the trouble the people have in which they hide. loneliness, unwilling to show it, so they hide behind a mask. despite the fact that they have wealth. despite the fact that they are handsome or above anybody else in many ways. deep within themselves they can be unhappy. catastrophe follows them at the
end of their lives. so this is a very serious kind of a poem. it is not a lighthearted, fun-loving poem. roosevelt was an expert reader and appreciated the craftsmanship and the all that robinson was able to capture regarding this character. this type of person who hides behind the mask. robinson stayed in the customs house as long as roosevelt was president. and when he left the white house , of course, in 1909, he had to leave the customs house. but in a letter to a friend, he wrote "my chief concern is a fear that i might turn out a
disappointment to my friends and to tr, who must be wondering how long it takes a man to write 100 pages of verse." well he did write another book of poetry which he published immediately after he left the customs house. this is a book of poetry called "the town down the river," published in 1910. it is dedicated to the it or roosevelt. in fact if you had a chance to look at the book of poetry, there are two poems. one at the beginning, and one at the end. the first one is about abraham lincoln and it is called the master, and the other one is about theodore roosevelt. these two poems stand in the book like monuments. bookends to the poems that are
in between that both men -- he creates the two of them, lincoln and roosevelt -- as powerful men who shape the nation and point us towards the future. the poems are identical in size and shape, they both have eight stanzas, eight lines in each stanza, they both have the same rhyme schemes. so he is obviously equating lincoln with roosevelt as the two greatest presidents from his point of view. he always wondered if he had fulfilled the wish that roosevelt had for him. he wrote to kermit, roosevelt's's in 1913. he wrote "i don't like to think where i should be now if it had not been for your astonishing father.
he fished me out of hell by the hair on my head. it's so enabled me to get my last book together and in all probability to get it published. i hope sincerely that i have made him understand that i know this." well, roosevelt believed in the importance of literature for the progress of american culture. he took active steps to promote poetry and poets when he could. on behalf of his efforts and on behalf of arlington robinson, he promoted that using publications, early poems written by george cabot lodge and other young poets at the time. and at the time roosevelt wrote the introduction to a two volume
set to his largest poems. in 1915, roosevelt arrange for another poet named bliss carmen, to find modest employment, so he could "save the discredit from having a man like him die of want." when the widow of a minor kentucky poet wrote about his death, roosevelt sent money from his own pocket, and persuaded andrew carnegie, of all people, to do the same. well, he was a rare individual. a man of power and action who also had a deep love of poetry. not only was he a president worthy of his image carved in stone on mount rushmore to stand forever between jefferson and lincoln, but he also found time in a busy life to read poetry, to write about the value and the importance of poetry for
american culture, and to use his wealth and influence to support the life and the careers of 20th century american poets. thank you very much. [applause] thank you. if anybody has any questions or observations or comments that they would like to make, anything i could flush out for you, i would be happy to do so. yes? >> as much as he loved to read it, did he write any? >> no he did not write poetry. the question was, as much as he loved to read poetry, did he ever happened to write poetry?
no he did not write any poetry, although he was a great reader. although there were other president who did write poetry. in my book, "poetry and the american presidency," there are several who wrote poetry. if particular, john quincy adams was a great writer of poetry, abraham lincoln, umm, uhh -- jimmy carter wrote poetry. ronald reagan wrote a great poem. but not teddy roosevelt. did you have a question? >> yes, i was just curious. how long did it take -- over what. did it take to carve not rushmore?
[laughter] >> rushmore, that is a good question! the man who did it was named bor gulam. i think it took him like 20 years to do it. his family is now trying to carve an image of an indian chief -- crazy horse! --on another location on the same mountain, and it is going on in it is not finished yet. it took a great deal of time, no doubt. yes? question back there? in the back? >> yes, there is a great deal of poetry in the bible. there are occasions for reading and referring to the poetry. >> i am sorry, i missed the question?
>> did he ever quote the bible for poetry? did he read a lot of the bible during his tenure? >> did he read the bible? >> oh! yes! yes he did. he did read the bible in his presidency. as well as other presidents, and the bible is full of great poetry. particularly in the old testament, the psalms for example. and many presidents read them and continue to read them, not only for their spiritual messages but also for the song of those poems. yes indeed, he did. yes? >> i have a story in regard to the poem "richard cory." it was one of my husband's
favorites. he could site it in its entirety. in his last few days he lost the power of speech. but i got a book out and i would read it to them, and whenever i would get to "richard cory," he could recite along with me even though he had lost the ability to speak. >> yes, "richard cory," is an extremely powerful poem. and closing it with a suicide is such an unexpected ending to that poem that it is disturbing. it just enters your conscious like able to lightning, doesn't it? so yeah, it is a wonderful poem. yeah. yes? >> how did you -- how did you get started and decide to study
the connection between presidents and poetry? >> yes, the question is, how did i get started on this project? about tenures ago i was asked to write an essay on edwin arlington robinson for a collection of essays on him. and so in the process of preparing that essay, i had to do a lot of research on robinson. i came upon this book review that i mentioned was written by president theodore roosevelt. and i was so surprised by that. i thought, a president taking time out to write a book review of poetry? it seems so out of character! especially him! i could not quite get my mind around that. so i finish the essay on robinson and then i went back
and i did more research on roosevelt to find out what was going on. and as i read about roosevelt, i started to uncover all of this information about him and found he was a lover of poetry. i was stunned by it. and so that i wrote an essay on that. and then i thought i was finished with it. but then i started to recall that i have read somewhere that abraham lincoln had written poems. and then i thought, hmmmm. and then i found out that jimmy carter had written poetry, and then thomas jefferson had probably written poetry because he had done everything into likely. so i started researching all of the presidents. and sure enough, i came up with 18 of them who had some degree of involvement in literature and in poetry. and then suddenly i realized i had a story that no one had ever written about before!
and i thought this was an interesting story. so then i put together all of these essays i wrote and then i ended up with this book. it was a good deal of research, of course. yes? the question back there? >> are those presidents who wrote poetry, did their poetry reflect their experiences or the times which they govern, or on they totally different topics and subject matters? >> very interesting question. the question is, did the poetry that the presidents wrote -- excuse me -- reflect their time, their lives, their conditions as president, and so on. and actually the answer is yes to all of those, in fact. john quincy adams, for example,
who wrote more poetry than any other president -- over 350 poems -- two books of poetry, in fact an epic, epic poem of over 2000 versus, john quincy adams wrote while he was in office, and he lived as -- you know, he was a second generation adams, so he was raised to be conscious of doing good work for a growing republic. the early american nation that we were. so he had 50 years of public service as, you know, as president, as congressman, as ambassador, many, many positions that he held in government. for 50 years, yet he wished that he could have been remembered as
a poet. that is how important poetry was to him. and he wrote, as i say, over 350 poems, and he loved literature so much that he wished to enter the pantheon of authors and be remembered for that, rather than for his public service. and he would take psalms for example, from the old testament, and rewrite them into english verse so that they would rhyme. abraham lincoln wrote poetry. it reflects his personality. he had a great heart for the common man and the common person, he had a great feeling for the ordinary people, and he wrote poems like that. they speak about those characteristics. a president like woodrow wilson would be very surprising, another surprising story.
we think of wilson as a very serious man, of course, you know he struggled for peace after world war i and try to establish the league of nations and to bring harmony and peace to the world. and yet he loved limericks! if you could imagine that! and he would recite them constantly. he had so many limericks in fact the people thought he wrote the limericks. we are not sure, he may have written some of them, in fact. it is very difficult to trace the authors of limericks because there are so many of them and there are so many words. so this is an avenue for him to let off steam, so to speak. to let loose a little bit from his trials and tribulations as a